Second-place softball battle split on Saturday
ABILENE, Texas - Abilene Christian softball split its Saturday doubleheader vs. Nicholls at Poly Wells Field as the Wildcats followed a 4-2 loss with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings that brings their overall and Southland Conference records to 23-16 and 12-3. The Colonels leave the Key City with records of 23-16 and 12-3 - 2.0 games behind league leader McNeese, which swept its three-game series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The Wildcats return to action Friday for the start of a three-game Easter Weekend series at Incarnate Word. The two sides play a doubleheader on Good Friday, starting at 4 p.m., and have a single game Saturday at noon.
Game 1 - Nicholls 4, Abilene Christian 2 Junior designated player Holly Neese hit her third home run of the season - a two-run shot in the first inning - to give ACU a 2-0 lead, but it was all Nicholls afterward as the Colonels scored all their runs between the second and third to win game one, 4-2.
Neese's round-tripper was the third of four base hits that inning for the Wildcats against Jackie Johnson and sailed over the wall in right field. From there, however, Johnson would allow just two more base hits before turning the game over to reliever Megan Landry in the sixth.
Kaleigh Singleton doubled with one out in the second and then Johnson retired 10 straight batters before Taylor Brown singled back up the middle in the fifth. Landry only gave up one infield single in her 2.0 innings of work in earning her second save of the week and third of the spring.
Hannah Null pitched a complete game for the Wildcats, and possibly should have won the game if not for a bit of bad luck with two outs in the second and third innings. Null struck out the first two batters she faced in the second inning, but center fielder Sydney Bourg laced a single to center field and third baseman Haley Stevenson followed with a bunt single back to the circle.
Null fielded the ball and after seeing Bourg running between second and third base, she threw to a spot where she thought one of her defenders may be, but the throw instead rolled all the way to the wall in left-center field. Bourg scored on the errant throw and Stevenson made it all the way to third base.
In the third inning, Null and the Wildcats were one out away from a scoreless frame but shortstop Amanda Gianelloni drew a walk that led to back-to-back run-scoring hits by Kendal Daniels and Veronica Villafranco. Daniel's single to left field tied the score at 2-2 and Villafranco's bloop double down the left-field line was just out of the reach of shortstop Peyton Hedrick and gave Nicholls the lead for good at 4-2.
Null went on to retire the side in order in the fourth and sixth innings, pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth, and assisted on an out at home plate in the seventh. She finished the contest with five Ks and 107 pitches.
Game 2 - Abilene Christian 5, Nicholls 4 (10) The final game between the Wildcats and Colonels was a see-saw battle from the very beginning and ended with the Wildcats prevailing, 5-4, thanks to Braegan Hamilton's walkoff single in the 10th that landed in shallow left field. Hannah Null won the game in relief for ACU by tossing 3.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, two of which came in the top half of the decisive inning.
With Nicholls pinch runner Samantha Dares starting the 10th at second base, catcher Veronica Villafranco bunted her over to third but she'd get no further as Null whiffed both Sydney Bourg and pinch hitter Elexus Trenkle on eight pitches. Null additionally stranded two runners in scoring position in the ninth with a punch out of designated player Kendal Daniels, and in the seventh she prevented the Colonels from padding their lead by getting a pop up to second and ground ball to third base.
ACU led three times in game two, but the Colonels always had an answer offensively. And in the seventh they plated two runs (one unearned) on three hits and an error to take a 4-3 lead. Jessica Taylor led off with a single, and on the next play, the throw to get Samantha Mracich out at first base hit off second baseman Tori Poullard's glove. Mracich followed with a stolen base, and both she and Taylor scored on Kasey Frederick's two run single up the middle off starter Sidney Holman.
The Wildcats got one run back in their half of the seventh to tie the score once more at 4-4. A leadoff walk issued to Kaleigh Singleton by starter Megan Landry led to a game-tying run, as pinch runner Mackenzie Thornton advanced to third base on consecutive ground balls before scoring on Taylor Brown's single through the left side.
Brown went 1-for-4 today with two runs and a RBI. She scored on Hamilton's walkoff hit in the 10th, and in the third inning she broke a 1-1 tie by sliding behind Villafranco after Holly Neese hit the ball into shallow right field.
ACU held that 2-1 lead until the sixth when another two-out RBI hit by Villafranco fell into right field, scoring Amanda Gianelloni, who reached base seven times during today's doubleheader. But in the Wildcats' half of that inning, Brianna Barnhill hit her seventh home run of the season - and second this week - over the wall in left-center field to give her team a short-lived 3-2 lead.
The Wildcats scored the game's first run on Neese's RBI single through the left side, plating Peyton Hedrick who earlier hit a one-out triple down the left-field line. Hedrick's triple was her fourth of the spring.
Nicholls tied the score in the second at 1-1 after Bourg's high chopper to the left side hit off Hedrick's glove, allowing Gianelloni to score. Gianelloni went 3-for-3 in game two with two walks and two runs.
Holman tossed 6.1 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks. She also walked four batters. Nicholls' Landry and Johnson combined for four strikeouts and three walks.
Courtesy ACU Athletics.